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The Wizard of Ozploitation

The Wizard of Ozploitation (photo)

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When “Kill Bill: Volume 1” premiered in Australia, Quentin Tarantino dedicated the film to one of his favorite directors, Brian Trenchard-Smith, whose name may not register if you’re not already a fan of schlock classics like 1975’s “The Man From Hong Kong” (the first Australian martial-arts film!) and 1983’s “BMX Bandits” (starring a young Nicole Kidman!). Featured prominently in Mark Hartley’s irreverently entertaining new documentary “Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!”, the English-born B-moviemaker was a key figure during the ’70s and ’80s Australian boom of exploitation films (“Mad Max,” anyone?) that rose after the Aussie censorship regime suddenly became more progressive. Since that crazy time when the limits were being pushed by such bold visionaries, Trenchard-Smith has made nearly 40 features, and as the lovingly curated clips in “Not Quite Hollywood” show, every last one is a scandalous romp. Just before going off to shoot his next picture, Trenchard-Smith spoke with me by phone about what puts asses in seats, directing sequels to other people’s films and Nicole Kidman’s former nicknames.

Could this boom of so-called “Ozploitation” films have happened today, or was that just a reactionary product of its time, with the introduction of the R-certificate?

I think it was a wonderful confluence of events in the entertainment universe, let’s say. Certainly, there was the relaxation of censorship restrictions and the joyous embracing of forbidden fruit that resulted at that time. Then there was a whole generation of Australians who — since the end of World War II, when foreign interest basically killed the indigenous film industry — had grown up that said, “Why don’t we have a film industry?” So that was coming to a boil as a sociopolitical movement: “We want to make our own films.” [All this] allowed us to catch up with the rest of the world to a degree, and you had the basic Australian adventurous spirit. We’re not going to totally obey the customs and formulas of established genres. We’re going to put our own antipodean twist to them.

Could it happen again today? I don’t know. It was a chemical mixture that came together right and produced an explosion of creativity, albeit in genres of cinema that didn’t get much respect. But people across the world, when they started to see these films, thought: “Woo! This is not your basic Hollywood cookie-cutter version of this or that genre. This has got a really interesting new flavor to it.” That was the gift, let’s say, the Ozploitation movement — Quentin’s term — gave to the Australian film industry renaissance.

What puts more asses in seats: sex, comedy, violence, or something else entirely?

You mean like animal husbandry? Maybe that’s the next taboo, “Brüno” meets “Doctor Dolittle.” [laughs] The combination of sex and violence has always been a potent one at the box office. It’s a delicate mixture — you don’t want to alienate your female audience by being excessively exploitative in the sex scenes, or so revolting in the violent scenes that it’s only a film for men. Comedy doesn’t travel internationally nearly as well as action. When I went independent from television towards the end of ’72, I made my first film, “The Stuntmen,” and I guess that points you in the direction of my area of interest. [laughs] I had determined that action was the universal currency of the movie market. A good punch-up plays just as well in Iceland as it does in Memphis.

To me, that was one way of getting a low-budget Australian film seen across the world. Give them acts of derring-do, laughs and gasps, amazing stunts, riveting action/violence, and as a result, my “Man from Hong Kong” in 1975 became the all-time box office champion of Pakistan, outgrossing the previous titleholders: “Cleopatra,” “Where Eagles Dare,” and I think “The Guns of Navarone.” That was indicative of the correctness of my philosophy at the time. Australia, [people] think it’s somewhere left of Austria or something. No one can understand the way we speak, the interesting way we treat vowels. And we certainly don’t have any stars to offer, so we better offer them something that they will always like, and that’s heavy duty action.

07282009_BMXBandits.jpgOn your blog recently, you mentioned you found Nicole Kidman overdubbed from a French language print of “BMX Bandits.” Where did you find that, and do you have any anecdotes about your time with Kidman?

I could write a book, but I perhaps shouldn’t. Firstly, I do troll the Internet, and often find whole sequences [from my films]. “BMX Bandits” was posted online in 12 different parts before the latest DVD version came out. I found an extract from what was obviously a French print or DVD. I thought that was interesting to look at the flavor of that dialogue scene, her introductory scene in the film, to see what it looked like in French. That made me think of whether someone who did her voice became a beneficiary of her ongoing career. It’s nice when that happens.

As far as Nicole is concerned, I think the Sydney Telegraph has a photograph of the two of us together, and she’s giving me a kiss on the cheek. Without that picture, there’s no point in mentioning the story, but I predicted [during] that interview with that journalist that she would be a star. She had just turned 16 — she was 15 when we shot the film — and I said that in every decade or so in life, she would be playing significant roles, and would probably end up in her 80s as a Katharine Hepburn-like, feisty grandmother. I still believe that is true. She had this innate grasp of interpreting the text in an interesting way, being natural but understanding the reasons of the line.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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